Are Family Meals a Thing of the Past?

Growing up we always tried to eat dinner as a family. It didn't happen all the time as Dad would usually work late hours, but Mom, Josh and I would always eat together. No television on in the background, no cell phones at the table (which no one in the family even had 'back in my day!') and always a home cooked meal. We weren't very rich so eating out virtually never happened. We went to Taco Bell after church on Sunday's and that was about the extent of our fancy dining out. Familiy dinner

 

{Not my family but one of the greatest family dinners in history. Source}

As a kid I never thought about what it meant to eat dinner as a family. Now, I realize how important they were to developing a good relationship with my family. It was our time to talk, usually make fun of each other, and eat a fairly nutritious meal (poor Mom had to deal with two picky eaters so she was pretty limited with what she could serve us!) The family dinner project cited numerous other benefits of family dinners;

Recent studies link regular family dinners with many behaviors that parents hope for: Lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem. Studies also indicate that dinner conversation is a more potent vocabulary-booster than reading, and the stories told around the kitchen table help our children build resilience.

{Remember: correlation does not imply causation! These families may have lower negative behavior rates for MANY other reasons aside from the fact that they eat dinner together.}

In our present society most mothers work outside the home and even though Dad's have been pitching in more with housework and chores, compared to generations past, the burden of cooking still typically falls on Mom. Many women suffer from the idea that they have to be able to be 'SuperMom' - work full-time, attend all soccer practices or ballet recitals, participate in the PTA, keep the house clean, serve 3 home cooked meals a day, and have a banging relationship with their husband. Yeah. That doesn't happen for anyone I know. Now, the media keeps bombarding women with the message that they need to be focused on feeding their kids healthy, nutritious meals but who has the time or money? Whenever I ask my students what the #1 issue is preventing them from eating healthier foods they always respond with "money." As much as I fight it (since I know I can feed myself extremely well on $50 a week with a bit of planning and food prep) I know it's not realistic for many families. What are they to do?

Retro

If I imagine my life as a married mom with kids I try to think how I'd be able to work, run a house hold, and have dinner ready each night. I know I harp on this to no end on my blog but food prepping has revolutionized how I eat. I only cook once or twice a week now and I have delicious healthy meals ready to go. If you have older kids you could probably badger them into helping out somehow, and if it's done on the weekend you should definitely make sure Dad is pitching in! I'm also a big fan of 'healthing up' frozen/pre-packaged meals. While a store bough veggie pizza bakes in the oven whip up a quick side salad. Make a box of mac-n-cheese and steam up some frozen broccoli in the microwave to go on the side.

[Tweet "Who has the time (or money) for family dinners every night anymore?"]

I empathize with parents out there who struggle to do what's best for the health of their families. I know it's hard to just take good care of myself (and Salem!) sometimes. I hope that parents won't get discouraged, and start to think outside the box for creative, affordable, ways to feed their families.

Did you grow up eating family dinners? If you have a family, how do you find time/money to feed them healthy meals?

Sources

Farewell, family meal? Stress of cooking may outweigh benefits

The Joy of Cooking?

Juggling Act? Why are Women Still Trying to do it All?